We all procrastinate at some point in our lives. Chances are, there is always something we should be doing but do not want to do, and so we make every effort to not do that thing as long as possible in hopes that it will just go away.
But that is not how life works.
Well, that is not usually how life works.
Which means we have to eventually learn not to procrastinate and just do what we are supposed to be doing, which is tough. I do not like doing things that I do not want to do, which is why I do not normally do them, but there are some secrets to stop procrastinating forever. These are not hard but should make procrastination a thing of the past for you. Now, you may ask, “If it is that easy, why is this still a problem? Aren’t you reducing human behavior down to incredibly simplistic terms sacrificing both accuracy and utility in the pursuit of sounding like you know what you are doing?”
To which I say, “Shut up.”
Step 1: Clean Your Room
Look, I did not want to be the one to have to say this to you, but your room is a mess. Like, seriously, it needs work. Your desk is filled with things you said you were going to organize but haven’t. Your dirty clothes are on the ground and your clean clothes are in the hamper. Your bed isn’t even made.
How are you supposed to work in such an environment? You are just going to distract yourself with each out of place toy or knick knack.
So go ahead and clean that now. I’ll wait.
You know, now that your room is clean, this might be a great time to vacuum. It is not like this often, so you might as well get on with it now.
Okay, time to get to work.
Step 2: Reward Yourself
We have all tried to write something or do something with no motivation to actually finish said thing, and it sucks. While doing work that needs to be done or keeping promises sounds like it would be adequate preparation, it often is not. You need something extra to get through the task at hand, and that can be as simple as a cookie. In fact, cookies are excellent all around.
Use that motivation to get you through your work. You could say that you will have a cookie when you finish your work, but if that is not enough motivation, you could just say you get a cookie at every milestone, like each new page of that report or each hour spent going over business reports (or doing whatever it is I assume office people do).
Obviously, this cycle of external motivation and lowered expectations will not slowly make you more distracted than not causing it harder to focus on your work and make any actual progress to what you are doing.
(In fact, I have written two sections and intro. That is a lot of writing, and a cookie sounds pretty tempting right now. I will reward myself and then get right back to finishing this post)
But seriously, if you have not gathered from this silly post, I still do not know how to solve procrastination wholesale. As an adult, I feel like I should be past this, and at every milestone in my life, I have vowed to be over it. When I went to college from high school, I swore that my tendency to put things off until the last minute was going to stay behind. When I graduated college and went to the real world, I vowed that my temptation to ignore work I had to do and not be dedicated even when work was not immediately due was something that would not survive graduation. And when I went to grad school from the real world, I thought, “That is it. I am going to be a good student now. I am above that.”
And yet, as my fellow writers at How to 20 Something will attest to, I still have trouble with deadlines (I was actually supposed to finish this article yesterday).
I will say that I have found two revelations to be somewhat helpful, even if they are not automatic changers in habits.
Revelation 1: Shame is not the answer.
Feeling bad about procrastinating never got me to do work. If nothing else, it paradoxically made me procrastinate more. Shame put me into this weird self-loathing cycle where I do nothing because I feel terrible about myself because I did nothing because I felt terrible about myself because I did nothing… you get the idea.
It was only after I viewed myself as someone who could do his work and get things done did I actually do any work or get anything done.
Revelation 2: Every Day
Do something every day. Do something small every day. Do something mildly larger every day. Maybe go back to do something small every day. But just keep doing stuff.
It is so easy to burn out as an adult. Part of that comes from the pressure to be that excellent adult person, and when you cannot keep that up, you crash.
But I have learned that nobody does that; nobody can keep up being the super responsible adult. Life does not work that way.
You can do something, though. You can always do something. As an anthropomorphized jogging monkey once said:
“It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier, but you got to do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”
(Bojack Horseman is an oddly inspirational show)